Obama aims to seize initiative in fiscal battles, aides say
WASHINGTON, July 22
WASHINGTON, July 22 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's well-advertised plans to address economic topics this week are part of an effort to break through the "fevered focus on controversies" and "fake scandals" generated by Republicans, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.
While Carney noted that Obama's speeches around the nation this week come as Congress and the White House prepare for fiscal showdowns in the fall, he said the president would focus on the longer-term view of "this country's future economically" rather than on the potential clashes ahead.
Carney said at his regular briefing that Obama would discuss "new policy initiatives." But the spokesman declined to be more specific, saying he did not want to "get ahead of the president in the specifics of his speech. I want everyone to hear it with fresh ears ..."
The speeches are set this week for Galesburg, Illinois, Warrensburg, Missouri and elsewhere.
The White House started heralding them Sunday night, with an email to reporters from senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer saying he had "just finished reading" the draft of one of the speeches and wanted to explain "why it's one worth checking out."
The White House has been buffeted in recent months by controversies over surveillance of citizens' phone and Internet activity by U.S. intelligence agencies and Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservatives groups seeking tax-exempt status.
The administration also confronts a fiscal deadline on Oct. 1, when spending legislation is needed to keep government programs running. Lawmakers will also need to raise the nation's debt limit, probably in November, to avoid a debt default.
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While Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have not unveiled a coherent strategy for these measures, individual members of the House and Senate have threatened to use them as they have in the past to extract concessions from the White House on spending, and perhaps on Obamacare - the president's signature healthcare law set for launch on Oct. 1.
The White House appears to be taking advantage of an interval between controversies to return to proven "middle class" economic themes that helped Obama win re-election in 2012 and then emerge victorious from the "fiscal cliff" showdown with Republicans in January.
Since Congress takes a break in August, there are only four weeks of legislative activity before the government-funding deadline.
"We certainly hope that many Americans will take the opportunity to hear the president's speech and to hear what he has to say, both in Galesburg and Warrensburg, and then beyond," Carney said.
"And he certainly hopes that you in the media will also hear him out and look at what he has to say, analyze what he has to say, and appreciate that the issues he'll be talking about are the issues that the American people care (about) most deeply."
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